That's Ms. Manners to You: Michelle & Melinda Share Their Advice for Having Kids at Your Wedding

michelle (m) is a wedding photographer, artist, mom, and feminist from Northern California who has a complicated relationship with traditional etiquette. Deep down she wants to be Miss Manners, but only if she can wear cat skirts and put her elbows on the table. Her grandmother told her once that she’s "full of piss and vinegar" and she attempts to live up to that every day. 

Melinda (M) is her mom and paid a lot more attention to etiquette lessons, but as a child of the 70s likes to throw much of it out the window. She has a lot of experience with reigning her daughter in while allowing her to speak her mind and make poor fashion choices. She’s a firm believer in "killing them with kindness."

They both believe there is a place in the modern world to be kind, classy and still be true to your values.  


"Dear mM,

Our large families are nearly hysterical! You’d think our non-traditional, non-religious ceremony would be enough of an issue for them, but no, the battle is concerning kids at the wedding. My fiancé and I don’t want kids there. It’s an afternoon affair in a lovely outdoor garden setting. I think kids are a noisy, messy distraction. My parents, sisters, aunts etc. think I’m selfish and are threatening not to attend. Advice please!"

I think I need a few more details before I can answer your question. How many of your close family members and friends have kids? How far do they have to travel for the wedding? Will you be okay if some of these folks don’t show up? If it’s local and your people can find sitters, you’re probably fine.  Of course some parents will immediately start making plans because a dressy dinner alone is like nirvana when you spend your days breaking up arguments about legos and wrestling those little raccoons into diapers.  But, (and let this be your mantra through all of wedding planning) Shit Happens. Kids get clingy, sitters fall through, money gets tight… You may end up with people bailing at the last minute.

I get your fear. You’re dreaming of a chic, quiet refined celebration. Kids are loud. They can cry during ceremonies, they dominate the dance floor, they run around like monkeys on espresso. Buuuuut girl,  I hate to break it to you, I’ve seen adults act that way, too. 

Maybe there are other solutions you can look into. Some venues have rooms you could rent out to have a few nannies stationed to play with the kids. There are entertainment groups that can perform puppet shows or plays with the kids. For our anniversary party we rented a jump house and three nannies then set them loose on the opposite side of the property. After setting them up with a projection screen and cartoons, we never heard a peep out of the kids. When it comes down to it the one question you should ask yourself is are you going to regret not having your childhood best friend there just because she has a rug rat? Whatever you decide, communicate it directly to those people most important to you WITH AMPLE WARNING SO THEY CAN FIND A SITTER. And yes, you might get some push back. But now you can offer some compromises or solutions if their first reaction isn’t “Hell YES”. 

~m


 A wedding without kids? Sounds lovely. May I join you? However, having been on both sides of this particular battle line, I can offer you a few thoughts to consider.

  • You kinda shot yourself in the foot with your venue choice. If you were planning a formal evening affair with a sit-down dinner, excluding kids wouldn’t cause such a tiff.
  • Parents love to dress up their little critters for weddings and they can look pretty cute in your photos. A suave photographer will know to capture the shot before they smear cake on themselves.
  • Finding babysitters can be a bitch, especially when all your family and friends are attending the same event. You risk missing out on sharing your day with them, and yes, their noisy, messy kids.
  • Five years from now you just might find yourselves on the other side of this debate.

So, what can you do to compromise?

~M